4 lessons every 21-year-old can learn from Ayra Starr’s new album


Just a few years ago, Oyinkansola Sarah Aderibigbe, Ayra Starr, was a teenager posting song covers online. Fast forward to today, and the 21-year-old Nigerian songstress is a global spectacle.

Her rise began with captivating covers on Instagram, catching the eye of legendary producer Don Jazzy. And signed to Mavin Records, Ayra Starr burst onto the scene with her self-titled debut EP in 2021. The project, fueled by the success of the smash hit Away, was a stepping stone for more exciting achievements. Her sound, a captivating blend of Afropop, R&B, and soul, resonated with Gen Z. Moreover, her lyrics tackled themes of love, independence, and self-belief.

With her sophomore album release, The Year I Turned 21, it's no surprise that she is telling a growth story. But I believe it's more than just pop bops, it is a powerful message for anyone navigating their early twenties.

So, if you're a 21-year-old trying to chart your course in the world, put on your headphones. Then hit play on Ayra Starr's album, and get ready to learn a thing or two. Here are 4 key takeaways you won't want to miss:

1. Think survival first before love

Ayra Starr wastes no time setting the tone with the opening track, Birds Sing of Money. It's a bold statement, a declaration of independence that throws financial stability front and centre. The lyrics paint a vivid picture. It reads "Crying through a window, I want lump sums, I heard a bird sing Commas outside.". It's a relatable sentiment for any young adult just starting, highlighting the raw desire for financial security.

Afterwards, this theme continues with track three, the chart-topping Commas. Here, Starr isn't shy about her ambition, singing about the pursuit of wealth and the freedom it brings. Correspondingly, she continues this frame of thought in Bad Vibes, featuring Seyi Vibez. She sings "Where the money dey, that is where I'm at". This translates to "Where the money is, that is where I am.".

2. Hold your friends dear, be a girl's girl

There is power in a good squad during your early twenties. Ayra Starr champions this concept in her album. Tracks like Woman Commando showcase the joy of genuine friendships. Lines like "Nobody's going to be left behind" show an unbreakable loyalty to her friends. She also says "I dey flex with my people o, Them blood e no be zobo". This means "I flex with my friends, our bond is stronger than zobo ( a popular Nigerian beverage). This is similar to saying blood is thicker than water.

Then in Lagos Love Story, Ayra Starr references Ciara's 2021 hit Ciara's Prayer, featuring Summer Walker. This was when she sang the lyric "Prayed Ciara's prayers, God came through.". This isn't just a catchy line, it's a nod to the importance of supporting other women. By referencing a song by fellow female artists, Ayra Starr celebrates the achievements of women in the industry. This inspires young women to do the same.

3. Give yourself the grace to learn, love and grow

Tracks like Birds Sing of Money showcase a shift. Ayra Starr acknowledges her power and agency while admitting responsibility for her journey. She says "I run my city, run my life, run my mind, but I never run away." Despite heartbreak, Goodbye chronicles her growth after the painful experience. Then Control flips the script, with Ayra confidently laying down the ground rules for a potential love interest.

But The Year I Turned 21 isn't all fierce independence. The introspective 21 tackles the weight of early success, reminding listeners that even the brightest stars sometimes struggle. And in a deeply moving moment, The Kids Are Alright sees Ayra confront grief, leaving voicemail messages for her late father.

Through vulnerability, Ayra Starr offers a powerful message of self-acceptance. It's okay to learn, it's okay to love fiercely, and it's okay to grow through challenges.

4. Love God, Protect your energy

Faith serves as a cornerstone throughout the album. Tracks like 21 highlight her surrender to a higher power: "Letting God work on me," she sings. This theme extends to Bad Vibes where she declares, "God they see in me," a powerful statement of divine favour.

But Ayra doesn't just rely on faith passively. She actively protects her energy, a message woven into Goodbye featuring Asake. This concept of discernment aligns with the deeply spiritual Orun, where Ayra cries out in Yoruba, "Olorun k'orun ke on me," which translates to "Oh Lord, let the heavens cry on me," a beautiful metaphor for seeking blessings.

The Year I Turned 21 is more than just an album; it's a testament to the power of faith and self-awareness. Ayra Starr reminds us that even as we navigate love, loss, and the pressures of young adulthood, a strong spiritual core can guide us on the path to personal growth.